Eleventh Circuit May Decide if WARN Act Applies to Virus Closures

The Eleventh Circuit may decide if the COVID-19 pandemic is a “natural disaster” that exempts employers from the 60-day notice requirement that ordinarily applies to mass layoffs and plant closings under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (“WARN”) Act.

On February 4, 2021, United States District Judge Roy B. Dalton, Jr., of the Middle District of Florida, certified the issue for interlocutory review in a class action case filed against Enterprise Holdings, the parent company of Enterprise Rent-A-Car and other car rental agencies, for laying off hundreds of Florida employees on short notice in spring 2020.  Judge Dalton found that the question raises a “novel issue” under the WARN Act that no other court has addressed to date.

If the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals accepts the issue for review, its decision could have a profound effect on COVID-19 litigation under the WARN Act and other laws.  While the Eleventh Circuit covers only Alabama, Florida and Georgia, other Circuit Courts of Appeals would likely look to the Eleventh Circuit for guidance when similar issues arise in federal courts under their jurisdictions.